—Arshia Simkin, The Underline
Katie Hayes is the founder of New South Pattern House, an art and design studio, based in Hillsborough, NC. Her specialty is block printing, a technique which involves pressing carved images onto paper and, as the name of her studio implies, her art is heavily inspired by North Carolina and the South and much of it features the flora and fauna of the region. While she was living in the Midwest, she “found that people had a lot of ideas about the South, but none of them really felt authentic to me,” so she started New South Pattern House as a “sort of a love letter to North Carolina and to the region,” Hayes said. Unlike stereotypes of the South, for Hayes, North Carolina was a place of multiculturism and “rich ecosystems”; indeed, her love of the natural world was a vital source of inspiration: “I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains, I grew up in Cullowhee, North Carolina, and I was just like this feral, wild child that played in the woods all the time and I wanted to be a naturalist,” Hayes said.
Now, Hayes indicated, the studio is in a time of transition: no longer a single-person operation, she has two staff members, one of whom is full-time and Hayes is working on growing it to include an ethically sourced stationary line and home goods, including cloth napkins and journals.
Hayes first got into print-making in a high school art class during which she carved a linocut rabbit; her teacher put it on display at a local community college. “Somebody saw it and contacted her with an interest in purchasing the piece. “That was the first piece of art I ever sold. I was 15 years old and I was like cha-ching! I was really excited and it was really validating,” Hayes said. She still has the print—a black and white rabbit nestled amongst grass and flowers—by her desk where it serves as a reminder of where she started from.
“My inspiration comes from just existing in this space,” Hayes said. Her home in Hillsborough is surrounded by woodland, river land, and marshes, so much of her work is wetland inspired. “I walk out into my woods every day and think ‘oh my god, I’m so lucky,’” Hayes said. “I’m seeing herons and pileated woodpeckers and—even otters the other day—muskrats, crawdads; all these things are just things that are in my woods; red shouldered hawks, lots of songbirds,” Hayes said.
Hayes also produces patterns for Spoonflower, a Durham-based company for which artists around the globe can upload design files that the company will then produce on demand in the form of wallpaper or fabric. “The vibe I’m going for is William Morris but Southern naturalist fan girl aesthetic. Like, how can I corner the market on art nouveau high end possum wallpaper, right?” Hayes said with a laugh. “So it’s not for everybody, but it’s like really highly specialized for this one look.”
Through Spoonflower, Hayes has also collaborated with local venues including the Durham Bulls, where her pattern of the Durham skyline is featured in a selfie station. She also designed the wallpaper for the bar and restaurant of the Peck & Plume at a hotel in downtown Cary called the Mayton Inn. The wallpaper is based upon the convergence of the North Carolina piedmont and coastal plains: “hairstreak butterflies and pitcher plants and cardinal and loblolly pines and thistles and English plantains and black-eyed Susans and it’s just stuff full of North Carolina botanicals. I love projects like that.”
Hayes was initially hesitant to turn art full-time because she is not a formally trained artist: “There were many years where I avoided being a full-time artist because I had this impression of the artistic community as being gatekeepers,” she said. But, she concluded, “I’m really grateful for the way the artists community in Orange County has accepted me and received me.”
Learn more about New South Pattern house at: